Last week, my 65-year-old neighbor Jeanie Lovelady who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis was arrested, handcuffed and taken to the DeKalb County jail where she was strip searched and incarcerated in a jail cell - for a traffic violation. She has no police record. Her ticket was administered for forgetting to pay a ticket for crossing over a yellow line while going around a stationary Marta bus.
Jeanie is a retired psychologist. Since the onset of her arthritis, because of her medications for pain, she is often forgetful and has become hard of hearing. We both felt it was important to tell her story so that others, particularly senior citizens can be forewarned.
“After being pulled over in Tucker, the policeman made me get out of my car, spread my legs, put my hands behind my back and handcuffed me. I was stupefied! While he was patting me down, I was crying from the pain explaining I had rheumatoid arthritis. Having my hands behind my back was excruciating. I asked, “Why am I being arrested.” He ignored me.”
After being put in the police car, Jeanie collapsed on the back seat in pain. Sobbing uncontrollably she pleaded with the policemen to uncuff her. He finally realized she was telling the truth, moved her arms and cuffed them in front, but she was still in pain. He finally said her tag had expired and there was a warrant for her arrest for an unpaid ticket. She said she never received a warrant and asked if she couldn’t just pay the ticket instead of being arrested. He said the warrant procedure was explained on the back of her ticket.
“He told me he going to impound my car. I explained I was a senior citizen on limited income and could not afford to have my car impounded. I begged him to allow my friend to come and get it. To my surprise, he called Lexie (Nancy)."
When I arrived, Jeanie was handcuffed in the backseat of the police car, her face covered with perspiration from the pain.
I asked the officer. “What are you doing? Can't you see she is in pain from the handcuffs? Does this woman look like a criminal? Would you do this to your mother? He ignored me. I was livid!
I watched as he took Jeanie to jail feeling totally helpless. When two hours passed without hearing anything, I drove to the jail on Memorial Drive and tried to speak with two indifferent women who ignored me. I finally spoke to a female officer who said Jeanie had been incarcerated with a bond of almost $900 that had to be paid in cash. I didn’t have that much money. I assumed Jeanie’s daughter could help her, however, I didn’t know her last name nor did I have her phone number. I asked the woman if she would have someone go ask Jeanie for her daughter’s information so I could call her. She refused with total indifference.
“When we arrived at the jail, I was still crying from the pain of the cuffs. I was placed with other women on a stainless steel bench in a holding room. No one explained my rights or any rules. I knew I needed to call someone, but I was so traumatized, my mind went completely blank. I couldn’t remember anyone’s phone number and couldn’t speak. The words coming out of my mouth were unintelligible. Then, I saw that the only place to go to the bathroom was a toilet behind a half wall that was completely exposed to a man in the next room. I decided I would hold it until I burst!
At 7 o’clock, they gave Jeanie her phone and told said her bond was set for almost $900. She gave the women two credit cards and told her to split the fee on the cards knowing if she did, she wouldn’t be able to pay her house mortgage or any other bills. The woman didn’t bother telling her she had to go through a bondsman and pay cash. I don’t know why she woman kept her credit cards for several hours.
I finally reached Jeanie’s daughter and she placed bond around 10:00.
“In the meantime, they took my finger prints, gave me a TB test and when I took the urine test, I was allowed to go into a private bathroom and finally relieved myself. I was horrified and humiliated when they strip-searched me and made me squat to make sure there was no weapons or drugs up my rectum. We had to lift our breast one at a time to make sure we had not concealed anything. Before putting me in a cell, the officer made me hold out my hands to cuff me again, I screamed at her, NO! Not on my left hand. She then put the cuffs back so that I could hold my left arm up. When they finally came to release me from the cell. The officer barked, Get your bag! I was having trouble getting my things out. So she screamed, “You are taking too long! I have other people who want to get out. I’ll just leave and come back in a few hours. When she saw me crying helplessly, she waited, then took my fingerprints for the third time and I was finally released from their abuse around 3:30.”
Jeanie is still traumatized. She sobbed and paced constantly during the telling of her story. She cannot believe she had to endure such a cruel, humiliating nightmare.
“Why wasn't I told my rights as a citizen? Is this typical of Georgia jails? At least they should inform you when there is a warrant for your arrest. Traffic offenders should not be thrown in with convicted felons. No one should have to be frightened and humiliated this way. This injustice has motivated me to do something to change the system.”